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Open Access Research article

RAWUL: A new ubiquitin-like domain in PRC1 Ring finger proteins that unveils putative plant and worm PRC1 orthologs

Luis Sanchez-Pulido1, Damien Devos2, Zinmay R Sung3 and Myriam Calonje4*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (CNB-CSIC). Cantoblanco, E-28049 Madrid, Spain

2 EMBL, Meyerhofstrasse 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

3 Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

4 Heidelberg Institute of Plant Sciences, Department of Biodiversity and Plant Systematics, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 345, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:308  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-308

Published: 27 June 2008

Abstract

Background

Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are a set of chromatin-modifying proteins that play a key role in epigenetic gene regulation. The PcG proteins form large multiprotein complexes with different activities. The two best-characterized PcG complexes are the PcG repressive complex 1 (PRC1) and 2 (PRC2) that respectively possess histone 2A lysine 119 E3 ubiquitin ligase and histone 3 lysine 27 methyltransferase activities. While PRC2-like complexes are conserved throughout the eukaryotic kingdoms, PRC1-like complexes have only been described in Drosophila and vertebrates. Since both complexes are required for the gene silencing mechanism in Drosophila and vertebrates, how PRC1 function is realized in organisms that apparently lack PRC1 such as plants, is so far unknown. In vertebrates, PRC1 includes three proteins, Ring1B, Ring1A, and Bmi-1 that form an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex. These PRC1 proteins have an N-terminally located Ring finger domain associated to a poorly characterized conserved C-terminal region.

Results

We obtained statistically significant evidences of sequence similarity between the C-terminal region of the PRC1 Ring finger proteins and the ubiquitin (Ubq)-like family proteins, thus defining a new Ubq-like domain, the RAWUL domain. In addition, our analysis revealed the existence of plant and worm proteins that display the conserved combination of a Ring finger domain at the N-terminus and a RAWUL domain at the C-terminus.

Conclusion

Analysis of the conserved domain architecture among PRC1 Ring finger proteins revealed the existence of long sought PRC1 protein orthologs in these organisms, suggesting the functional conservation of PRC1 throughout higher eukaryotes.